, Newburyport, MA


September 27, 2013

Newburyport's history, told through newspapers

I have been taken by recent letters to the Daily News relating to the historic treasures in the Newburyport Public Library’s archives.

Histories are chronological records of significant events, and Newburyport’s library archives have been impressively enriched by records of every type and purpose.

A visit to its web site will broaden respect for what the archives have to offer, but this reflection deals largely with its microfilm collection of this newspaper and its predecessor since 1773.

The decision to build a new library addition and to modernize the older one in a way that blends all of what was past with the present assures a sustainable pride.

It has become a busy enterprise, not the least of which is its status not just in Newburyport, but among the best the state has to offer.

Central to that is the depth and breadth of its archival presence, an educational resource of a kind undreamed back when it’s residence was in the bowels of the older building.

Communities are complexities of social and professional engagement in the making of history. Library archives maintain details of that making.

Accounts come in many forms, none of which are more collectively relevant to social and governmental behavior in a given time and place than newspapers.

Newburyport’s archives contain those of this newspaper and its predecessor, the Newburyport Herald, published in 1793.

Unfortunately, newsprint does not last long and there were 35 newspapers published in Newburyport between 1773 and 1854.

Had modern means of preservation been as they are, we would be able to research local newspaper coverage reaching back to when the first issue of the Essex Journal, and Merrimack Packet was printed by Isaiah Thomas and Henry Walter Tinges on what was then King Street (now Federal) at the corner with Middle, across from what was the St. Louis de Gonzague church until its end and sale.

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